Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- One Year after Arrest, Chinese Lawyer Still Missing
- Religious Left Form Alternative to National Prayer Breakfast
- Iran Detains Christians without Legal Counsel
- Pastors Name Graham Most Influential Living Preacher
One Year after Arrest, Chinese Lawyer Still Missing
ASSIST News Service reports that ChinaAid is seeking help to expand awareness of a missing Chinese human rights lawyer on the first anniversary of his disappearance. On Feb. 4, 2009, Gao Zhisheng was abducted from his home and "disappeared into the black hole of the Chinese detention system." Gao's condition and whereabouts are still unknown. Rumors of his death have been circulating since December, but have not been confirmed. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu publicly acknowledged Gao's case to the media for the first time just two weeks ago, on Jan. 21. ChinaAid believes that based on the minister's comments and other inside reports, Gao Zhisheng is still alive, but suffering incredible torture.
Religious Left Form Alternative to National Prayer Breakfast
The Christian Post reports that several pro-gay Christian leaders are supporting an alternative to this year's National Prayer Breakfast. Organizers say the group that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast is directly responsible for Uganda's widely condemned anti-gay bill. The event, called "The American Prayer Hour," has found support from Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in The Episcopal Church; Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God; and Harry Knox of The Human Rights Campaign among others. "The American Prayer Hour events will affirm inclusive values and call on all nations, including Uganda, to decriminalize the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," organizers state. The bill would impose the death sentence or life in prison for some gay acts, and require everyone - including pastors, parents and health care workers - to report known homosexuals within 24 hours of their knowledge.
Iran Detains Christians without Legal Counsel
Compass Direct News reports that at least 14 Christians have been detained in Iranian prisons for weeks without legal counsel in the past few months. Three Christians remained in detention at Evin prison after authorities arrested them along with 12 others who had gathered for Christmas celebrations on Dec. 24 southeast of Tehran. While the others were released on Jan. 4, remaining at Evin prison were Maryam Jalili, Mitra Zahmati and Farzan Matin. Authorities have promised the release of the three Christians multiple times. In the southwestern city of Shiraz, seven Christians were being detained as of Jan. 11, and most of them may face charges of apostasy, or leaving Islam. Another Christian in the northern city of Rasht, Davoot Nejatsabet, also has been arrested. And Yousef Nadarkhani, who was arrested last year on Oct. 13 in Rasht, remains in prison.
Pastors Name Graham Most Influential Living Preacher
The Christian Post reports that the Rev. Billy Graham topped the list of most influential living preachers, according to a recent LifeWay Research survey. Graham received almost three times as many votes as any other pastor. The 91-year-old pioneering evangelist has preached to more than 200 million people in 185 countries. Pastor Charles R. Swindoll, author and host of the radio Bible-teaching ministry Insight for Living, was second on the list. LifeWay Director Ed Stetzer said he was surprised at the results. "Considering our sample includes liberal and conservative, all races and ethnicities, mainline and evangelical, we were surprised that the list looked like mainstream Christian radio and publishing and was not more representative," he said.